If you want a good budget phone, you buy Motorola. Although there has been some heavy competition recently in the budget space, there’s a reason why the Lenovo-owned company has consistently held a prime spot in our best cheap phones guide over the past few years. And the new Moto G6, Motorola’s flagship smartphone in its 2018 budget range, may be the phone to buy if your budget is under $300. Other than a specification bump and a new design, there aren’t a lot of new eye-widening features, but the G6 is a phone that handily does the job.
Motorola also unveiled the cheaper Moto G6 Play, which has different specifications and a slightly different design from the G6. If you want to go even more affordable, there’s also the new Moto E5 Plus and Moto E5 Play, which will only be available from select carriers. Read our Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play hands-on review for more.
Good display, sleek design
The Moto G6 and G6 Play heavily borrow their design from last year’s Moto X4. The back of both phones curve in toward the screen, so they feel more ergonomic, and they’re covered in glass. The Moto G6 specifically uses Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 (Gorilla Glass 5 is currently used in more expensive flagships) on the rear, so it will be able to resist scratches more than the polymer glass on the G6 Play. The rear of both phones are sleek and minimal, with a nice wave pattern when the light shines on them.
A big circular camera juts out in the top middle section of the Moto G6, and below it is a flush Motorola logo. This is the easiest way to tell the two phones apart, because the camera is flush on the Moto G6 Play, and the Motorola logo sits inside the indented fingerprint sensor. There are also two cameras in the fixture on the G6, but you’ll only find one on the Play.
So, where’s the Moto G6’s fingerprint sensor? Flip the phone over, and it sits at the very bottom bezel under the screen. Speaking of bezels, Motorola is jumping on the “bezel-less” bandwagon, shrinking the edges around the 5.7-inch screen on both phones. There are still sizable chunks of bezel surrounding the display, and both phones still manage to look quite busy on the front.
The ergonomic design of the G6 and G6 Play reminds us of one of our favorite phones from Motorola — the original Moto X from 2013. They look and feel like they should cost way more than $250.
The front-facing flash and selfie camera stick out on the top of both phones, and we’re not fans of how Motorola plasters its name on the bottom of the device — it looks worse on the Moto G6, where the logo is sandwiched between the screen and the oval fingerprint sensor. If we had to choose, we’d pick the Moto G6 Play’s design, because the front doesn’t look as busy, and we’re partial to rear fingerprint sensors.
The volume rocker sits above the power button on the right edge of both phones, and for the first time on a budget Motorola phone, you’ll find a USB-C charger on the bottom of the G6. Motorola said people still have various Micro USB accessories, which is why it’s hesitant to change its entire lineup to the USB-C standard.
The Moto G6 is the only phone in its 2018 budget range to feature the USB-C charging port, and it’s a welcome addition. It allows for faster charging, the cable is reversible, and you can transfer data with it as well. Expect the company’s 2019 products to exclusively use USB-C.
In our brief time with the phones, the 5.7-inch IPS LCD screens were colorful and relatively sharp. The Moto G6 has a Full HD resolution (1080p), while the Play just has an HD resolution (720p). We did notice the screens don’t get as bright as we’d like, making them a little tough to see in broad daylight. We’ll have to do a little more testing to see how they fare in day-to-day use. Both devices do have an 18:9 aspect ratio, which means you might have a better movie-watching experience, as a lot of films are shot in that standard.
Our biggest concern is the use of glass on the back. Dropping it could leave you with a repair bill that’s the same cost of the phone.
The Moto G6 and Moto G6 Play are comfortable in the hand, and the ergonomic design really does hark back to one of our favorite phones from Motorola — the original Moto X from 2013. These phones do not look like they cost under $250, and the Moto G6 especially doesn’t feel like its price. Still, the front design could be a little cleaner, and we wish there was no camera sticking out on the G6. We would have also liked to see some type of IP-rated water resistance, as both devices use P2i’s technology, making them only splash-proof.
Our biggest concern is the use of glass on the back – and not because it’s a fingerprint magnet. Motorola said it’s because glass is trendy, and it also helps keep the phone’s manufacturing cost down. At the same time, it means there’s more glass to shatter, which means you’ll end up with a repair bill that’s the same cost of the phone. If Motorola is adding glass to its phones, we’d at least have liked to see wireless charging – or some other kind of added functionality.
Solid performance, clean software
The Moto G6 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor, with options for 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, or 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There’s a MicroSD card slot if you want to add up to 128GB of more space. The Moto G6 Play, on the other hand, uses the Snapdragon 427 processor and comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage, or 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It also has a MicroSD card slot.
We didn’t see any glaring performance issues in the brief time we had to test the phones. Moving throughout the Android 8.0 Oreo operating system wasn’t the fastest experience we’ve had on a phone, but it was quick. Apps take a few extra milliseconds or seconds to open and load up, and there was a little shutter lag in the camera app.
If you’re a power user, these phones won’t be able to keep up with you. For general tasks like web browsing, social media, and a few not-so-intensive games, the Moto G6 and G6 Play should be able to deliver.
There’s not a lot of Motorola software installed, and the user interface is very similar to stock Android. Motorola does offer up the same Moto Actions as before, with features that include the ability to wave your hand over the screen to see notifications; one-button navigation using the front fingerprint sensor on the G6; a chop gesture to turn on the flashlight; a double twist gesture to open the camera; and more.
The Moto G6 Play does have one big advantage over the flagship G6 –a 4,000mAh battery, versus the G6’s 3,000mAh.
The Moto G6 Play does have one big advantage over the flagship G6 — it has a 4,000mAh battery capacity, as opposed to the G6’s 3,000mAh. It does mean the G6 Play is a little heftier and thicker, but you will undoubtedly get two days of battery life, maybe even more. The G6’s capacity should also be large enough to power the phone for more than a day. And you’ll only be able to use Motorola’s TurboPower fast-charging technology on the G6.
The software is clean and easy to use, and we have confirmed the G6 and G6 Play will receive Android P after it launches later this year. We’re sad to see there’s no NFC yet again in the Moto G series, which means you won’t be able to use Google Pay for contactless payments.
The Moto G6 is the only phone in Motorola’s 2018 budget lineup with a dual-camera system, so let’s get the G6 Play out of the way. It has a 13-megapixel rear camera with a f/2.0 aperture, as well as an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with a flash for selfies. We noticed a little shutter lag when tapping the shutter button, which ended up producing a bit of blur if we weren’t completely still. The camera results looked solid, with good detail and color.
The flagship Moto G6’s dual-camera system includes a 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel camera, with an f/1.8 aperture. The second camera is used for Portrait Mode, which blurs out the background of a subject to create a cool bokeh effect. It did a decent job in testing, but it’s easy to spot the blur errors in the photo. What’s neat is you can change the point of focus in the photo after it’s captured, and decrease or increase the level of blur.
There are also a few “smart camera” features on the G6, such as text selection, a handful of face filters that accurately clung to our face, landmark and object recognition, and a manual mode for further control. Motorola also added a time lapse feature for the first time, though we haven’t had a chance to try this out.
In the past few years of reviewing Motorola’s smartphones, we’ve consistently noticed issues with shutter lag — not just in its budget series, but in its flagship Z series as well. We have seen a little bit of this again on the G6 and G6 Plus, and we’re going to go out on a limb and say we’ll likely see it in additional testing. As nice as the photos may come out — and the photo results did look pretty good on the Moto G6 — the experience is ruined if you have to take the same photo a few times to avoid blur.
Price and availability
The Moto G6 will set you back $250, while the G6 Play only costs $200. Both devices will be available in late spring (likely at the end of May), unlocked and at major carriers.
Overall, both the G6 and the G6 Play are solid improvements over last year’s Moto G5 series. They look much better, and feel a little more capable, but they’re not exciting. We’d like to see Motorola push the budget phone boundary even further — like when it brought IP68 water-resistance, a flagship feature, to the $450 Moto X4.
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